Deer Lakes, Freeport prepare for Big East rivaly matchup with playoff implications on the line

Friday, October 4, 2019 | 2:04 PM

Deer Lakes and Freeport have a storied history in football.

The Yellowjackets have dominated that history and lead the rivalry 41-5. The last time Deer Lakes won was in 2010 when it earned its first WPIAL playoff appearance.

Another victory came 25 years ago this week, when current coach Tim Burk quarterbacked the Lancers to a 7-0 win. Burk and the Lancers are looking to do whatever it takes to earn No. 6 in a Class 3A Big East Conference contest Friday night in Freeport.

“We have to be able to get more wins against them. Last year was a great battle. We just couldn’t finish,” Burk said. “It’s just trying to get over the mental block, that hump, that it’s just another team and it’s just another game. So, hopefully, we’ll come ready to play on Friday.”

Winning any way possible has always been Freeport’s niche, using toughness and an ability to scratch and claw to victory.

In 1984, Deer Lakes had the ball on Freeport’s 4-yard line with the game on the line and fumbled, allowing the Yellowjackets to hang on for the victory. Freeport added another great chapter in 1998, when it defeated Deer Lakes, 42-35, in a triple-overtime thriller to earn a berth in the playoffs.

Then, there was last season, when the Yellowjackets needed to win out to earn another playoff berth. Facing a 10-7 deficit in the fourth quarter, Conor Selinger ran for an 11-yard touchdown to seal the victory for Freeport.

“We were lucky to get that one,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “They really threw it a lot, and they had a great team and they are just as good this year.”

On Friday, another chapter will be written in the longtime rivalry as both teams look to improve their chances of reaching the postseason.

The Yellowjackets (2-3, 2-3) are in the same spot as they were a year ago. After losing three straight games to start the season, they have a “win-or-go-home mentality” because they can’t afford another loss.

“Last year, we were in the same position, but this is a different team this year,” senior quarterback Garrett Schaffhauser said. “But that helped. We know we need to win. If we lose, we’re out. So we’re just really motivated to keep going.”

Then there are the Lancers (3-3, 3-2), a team reeling from a two-point loss to Burrell last week when they ran just eight plays in the second half and scored on one of them. To win Friday night, the Lancers must stop the Freeport running game.

Deer Lakes has allowed five runners to surpass the 100-yard threshold this season, including three in the past two games.

Offensively, Deer Lakes will rely on the arm of quarterback Aris Hasley, who is among the WPIAL leaders with 1,492 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also has run for 316 yards. His top targets are Jack Hollibaugh (30 catches, 454 yards, three TDs) and Trey Darrah (23 catches, 451 yards, eight TDs).

Freeport has had success on the ground, with at least one player scoring a rushing touchdown in four of five games this season.

Freeport’s running contingent consists of Schaffhauser (269 yards), Ricky Hunter (254), Jewlius Barnes (83) and Brodey Woods (74), among others. Schaffhauser also has thrown for 867 yards and eight scores.

“It’s obviously been our Achilles’ heel this year. We just have to be better,” Burk said of defending the run. “We made some changes, so hopefully we found a way to stop it, we’ll see.”

When the rivals take the field Friday, there will be a lot more on the line than just bragging rightse. Both teams will be battling for their playoff lives, and the Yellowjackets will be looking to get their third straight win, in front of a home crowd on homecoming night.

“I’ve been playing them since youth football when I was 6, so it’s always been a rivalry, and we don’t really get along so we always want to beat them, especially on homecoming week,” Schaffhauser said. “It’s big, so hopefully we can come out with a win.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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